Before I even get into this one – there will be major SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War (and others) so If you’ve not seen it yet then stop reading now. Go watch the flick and then come back and read my rant…you have been warned.
Killing off a much loved character is always a gamble and when it comes to superheros, that gamble is tenfold. Avengers: Infinity War kills off a lot of characters…a lot. But before I get to that, I want to take a look at a certain other superhero death to put the point across as to why that superhero deaths are a lack of surprise.
Yes, I’m going to got into the deep, dark and depressing depths of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Such a fucking awful flick in which they kill off Superman at the end…except they really don’t. This whole thing was just such a cop out and pretty much anyone who saw it came out angry even if they enjoyed the film. The main reason for this is first, there is no way they would kill off Superman after only his second appearance and you feel as if the movie studio think you are stupid. Seriously, just forgetting the little but obvious hint at the end of the film that he wasn’t really dead – did anyone seriously believe they would kill off Superman after only two films? The shock does not work when its painfully obvious there is no shock there. Secondly and most importantly, they had not earned the right to kill off Superman. In order for a character’s death to mean something and resonate with the viewer you have to allow the audience to get to know the character first and with Superman that didn’t work because it was only the second film in the franchise.
You want to know how you kill off a popular superhero in a movie and have it mean something, have the people behind the death earn the right to kill a character off?
Why it worked with Wolverine and not Superman is simply because the audience got to know and love the character over several years and movies. Seventeen years and nine movies of Hugh Jackman playing the same character gave us the viewer a chance to enjoy him and it really did hit hard when he was killed off in Logan. They earned the right to kill him off unlike Superman. I came out of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice laughing at how bad it was, not just the overall film but just the hackneyed and unsurprising way they killed Superman off that left a terrible taste in my mouth. I came out of Logan with a huge lump in my throat, feeling emotionally drained and yet strangely satisfied. It felt right.
This whole thing brings me to Avengers: Infinity War. As I said, lots of characters die in this one and most of them suffer from what I’m now calling “The Superman Syndrome”. Before the film’s release, a lot of people thought that either Captain America or Iron Man would be the ones to bite the bullet and yet they were some of the few to survive. I admit, its an interesting twist on the part of the film to not do what the fans were expecting. But by doing this, the film also suffers from The Superman Syndrome. If they won’t kill off the two main long running characters, it pretty much only leaves them with the newer ones, the ones we haven’t yet had chance to form the same bond with.
Pretty much the big death in the movie that people are talking about is Spider-Man…yes Spider-Man dies. Except just as with Superman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice…we all know he wont be dead for long. We know this for two very good reasons. First, he died via Thanos’ clicky finger dissolving super-death move and every character who died that way will be back in the second part of the film (yes Avengers: Infinity War is a two parter). We already saw Thanos turn back time thanks to the Infinity Stones/Gauntlet during the whole Vision scene, plus Captain Marvel will be in the second part and she can and most probably will time travel (with the help of Ant-Man), then there is the whole Soul Stone thing – these little factors all add up to the fallen being brought back, we may not know exactly how yet…but we all know they are coming back.
EDIT: The Russo brothers have recently confirmed that Gamora is still alive trapped in the Soul stone. So her ‘permanent death’ is a moot point too.
Secondly there are more Spider-Man films planned. In fact a lot of the characters who die in that dissolving thingy-bob have future films planned in the MCU. Kind of ruins the whole shock factor when we know what they have planned eh? Just as with Superman’s ‘death’ in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – a movie that sets up the Justice League flick which everyone knew Superman would be part of, you can’t kill off Spider-Man and except people to believe it really is the end for the character. They also killed off Black Panther shortly after his solo flick that was a huge success and critically acclaimed, of course he’s not really dead. You’re fooling no one Marvel and the shock/surprise just does not work.
I’m not taking anything away from the Spider-Man death scene itself as the acting was great. Both Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr were fantastic in it. Just before I move on, Loki dies, Heimdall dies, Vision dies, Spider-Man dies…all played by British actors. Does Marvel have something against British actors? Back to the point, yeah the acting was brilliant but we know Spider-Man will be back and that takes a huge chunk away from the emotion of the scene. Compare this to the killing off of Wolverine in Logan – We knew it was the last film, we knew that Hugh Jackman wanted to retire the character and even though we all knew he would die at the end…it still hit us hard, we were still gobsmacked as James Howlett breathed his last and anyone who had watched the character grow though the films for almost twenty years felt something as he died. You just can not get that by killing off a massively popular character after only a handful of appearances.
They even kill off Nick Fury in the after credit scene, one of the originals and a death that really could’ve meant something…except he dies via Thanos’ clicky finger dissolving super-death move so we know he’ll be back. Just as DC didn’t earn to right to kill off Superman, Marvel also didn’t earn the right to kill off pretty much anyone who dies in Avengers: Infinity War.
Of course there is another side to this coin, an argument that can be put forth that destroys every point I have just made. Yeah we the viewer may know Spider-Man and the rest will be back, we know that ultimately the Avengers and Co. will win and Thanos will fail in the second part of the picture…but the characters in the film don’t. Maybe this is where we are meant to draw our emotional connection from, not our own viewpoints and expectations as with Wolverine’s death in Logan but instead those of the characters in the flick. Spider-Man’s death didn’t work for me looking at it knowing that he will be back, knowing that the good guys will eventually win. But as I said, the acting was sublime and really lifted the scene as a whole. It was Peter Parker just being the teenage school boy he really is crying that he didn’t want to go, it was Tony Stark’s look of disbelief and abject failure as his protégé died in his arms that sold it.
Yeah, in the grand scheme, Spider-Man’s death is really nothing. But at the time, those few seconds, that acting and everything else? That was a Logan moment and one that will stay with me forever.